We know that physical activity helps to keep our bodies healthy and improves our mood, but could exercise actually make us more intelligent? Many experts believe that the answer is yes. According to Dr. Joe Mercola, in his article New Proof that Exercise Makes You Smarter, “exercise provides protective effects to your brain through:
- The production of nerve protecting compounds
- Greater blood flow to your brain
- Improved development and survival of neurons
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases
"Studies show that exercise in school age students provides an increase in I.Q scores, higher classroom test scores and increased likelihood that a child will continue to higher education. For adults in the workforce, exercise can be an invaluable tool to increase performance and productivity. An employee who exercises regularly is 15 percent more efficient than those who do not.”
In addition to those protective effects to the brain, exercise targets the two most crucial parts of the sensory systems that address movement in our bodies; The proprioceptive system (sense of joints and muscles that provide information about our body position in space) and the vestibular (sense of position that provides information about our body’s movement, balance and postural control) system. When these systems are targeted through running, climbing, jumping, swinging and spinning in gym class or recess, kids are more productive, more attentive and more focused when it is time to go back to the classroom, because their bodies have been given the sensory input needed to be regulated.
In The importance of recess, Tim Meyler , recognizes and advocates for physical education to be incorporated into every students typical school day. As a masters level physical education instructor, Meyler “becomes frustrated when teachers look at Physical Education only as a planning hour, or simply as a chance for kids to ‘have fun’ instead of seeing it as essential for the health and well-being of all children. Studies show that regular physical activity can
- Reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease
- Increase self-esteem
- Help prevent obesity
- Lower blood pressure
- Increase test scores for school age children
"Recess should be viewed as an opportunity for children to not only engage in physical activity but also to learn about and build their character, to develop cooperation s kills and to practice social interaction with other children. Classroom teachers should realize that recess is an equally important part of the instructional day.” Despite this important research, recess and physical education programs are often among the first to be taken away when schools have to cut costs.